Mike Prosciak is the Operations Manager in the Springfield office of Valet Park of America. He started here as a valet in the late 1990s while he was in college and left the company after he graduated to pursue a career in finance. About two years ago he returned to VPA when the need for an Operations Manager arose. Mike has a great perspective to work with in the operations department since he has experience working in the field as a valet. Recently, we sat down with Mike to get the scoop on how he was able to progress through the ranks at VPA.
What is your current job title, and what you do for the company now?
Currently my title is Operations Manager, which would be nailing down the day to day operations on the actual function of certain accounts, whether it be valet or transportation, and going out getting accounts. I wear many different hats. I also work in client relations, employee relations, and quality control. Every day is a much different day. You never know what to expect.
How did you get started at the company? Did you start as a valet?
Yes, back in the late 90s, myself and Brian Hiltpold, who now is the Regional Manager of the Capital Region in New York and Vermont, were working at the Delaney House in Holyoke, Massachusetts valeting for them. Then Ted Chagnon [Owner of Valet Park of America] came in and actually got that account, so we started working at the Delaney House for Ted and VPA. From that point on we kind of grew with the company. I went from doing that to weekend manager and going around and checking on various work sites.
So you were working at the Delaney House internally as a valet?
Exactly. They did all their valet in-house. Ted was trying to expand his business and collaborated with the owner of the Delaney House to outsource their valet service through VPA.
From the Delaney House, did you start working at other locations?
Yes, I didn’t just do the Delaney House. I was doing Private Parties, working at the Yankee Peddler, Hotel Northampton, and Baystate Medical Center. Obviously it was much smaller then, but primarily in Western Massachusetts is where we would work.
Then you started getting into sales?
Yes. I kind of slowly learned the business. I learned about the customer service aspect, and one thing led to another. I had a good rapport with the company and I wanted to grow with them, so that was the next natural progression.
Mike in his valet days directing traffic at the Log Cabin in Holyoke, MA.
After that, I finished college and I did leave for five or six years. Brian Hiltpold who is my good friend stayed working here the whole time. As I mentioned he’s now a regional manager. So I kind of had ties with VPA that way. I always knew what was going on with the company. I knew they were doing well. I came back to VPA and in May it’ll be two years. I ran into Ted and it was kind of meant to be. One thing led to another and I came in here for a couple interviews and he offered me a position. I was excited to come aboard because it’s a growing company, as everyone can see. Every month we’re getting new accounts, which is great. He basically brought me on board to help with the growth and expansion of the company.
So it’s good that you have that insider perspective from starting off at the valet level and now working as an operations manager.
Yeah. In most businesses when people start at the entry level and work their way up they get to know every aspect of the business. Those are the ones that are most successful. Having been in the company for such a long time I know the customer service, the back of the house, the front of the house… a little bit of everything.
Are there any big changes that you’ve seen the company go through during your time here, as far as expansion, etc.?
When I left back in the early 2000s they were still growing. I think they had maybe 200 employees then, and when I started I want to say there were probably 60 employees. So there was a lot of growth then. But it was amazing to see that we’re all over the Northeast now, with over 500 employees. It’s nice to see that with the clients that we are getting now, a lot of it is referrals because they’ve used our service in other places. We pride ourselves on customer service, that being the number one thing that we focus on as a business. That’s what I like about working with this company. It’s nice to see that other people recognize that. I think that’s why we’re so successful with getting referrals and why we continue to grow.
What were some of the steps you took towards progressing within the company? Were there any situations where you took initiative that helped you move up into the sales aspect?
I was always willing to go the extra mile. I’ve always been a pretty outgoing person. I worked in the restaurant business when I was younger. It basically takes hard work and determination. I like to try to do the best I can and whatever project I’m working on I try to get it done the best I can and help the company succeed in all their goals as well as my own. Since I’ve been back I’ve also taken most of our Leadership Development Courses, which are great, not only for me but for the up and coming future leaders of VPA.
Mike going the extra mile while assisting a customer at the Log Cabin.
Have you had any memorable or rewarding experiences during your employment with VPA? Any accomplishments within the company that you’re especially proud of, as a valet or a manager?
Just getting customer letters and feedback from people. Rochester General Hospital for instance, going up there and opening that account and getting positive feedback from the people we work for up there. That in itself is a great gratification, just to see your hard work pay off. And for all the guys who work there as well, to know they’re doing such a good job. I appreciate that. I work hard, they’re working hard, and everybody’s happy.
What are some things you like about working for VPA?
Every day is different for the position I’m in. I’m always doing something different. Every day is a surprise. I feel like you never know what you’re going to get, which I like. The other great thing is the company culture, which is fantastic. Everyone gets along outside of work. They get together, go out, have fun. That’s a nice thing to have. I think for some people the last thing they want to do when they leave work is hang out with anyone they work with, and that’s not the way it is here. The other thing I like about it is I get to travel a lot, too. It’s nice because I’m not behind the desk every day. Some days I’m in Western New York or on Nantucket Island… It has its pluses.
Mike Prosciak with his wife Carrie, current Regional Manager Brian Hiltpold, current VP of Operations Tim Graney, and Tim’s wife, Sue at Cara Mia’s, circa 2001.
What advice would you give to a new employee who is looking to be promoted within the company?
To be in this industry you’ve got to be customer-service driven. If you don’t like being around people and talking with people maybe you should look in a different direction. It takes hard work and being friendly and outgoing. You’ll go places, not only here, but in life in general.
Is there anything else you’d like to add?
It’s just been nice being back and seeing old faces. I’m excited about where the company is going and where we’re headed. I’m looking forward to being a part of that for years to come.